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As political leaders attack Obama for swap of Taliban prisoners and ignore important related issues, we talk with journalist Andy Worthington about the Bergdahl trade and lawyer Jon Eisenberg about the legal battle over force-feeding Gitmo hunger strikers.Click here for free audiobook download from Audible, and earn $15 for the PBC Podcast!
Worthington has provided detailed coverage of Guantanamo at his website, and is the author of The Guantanamo Files. We talk about the recent attention to Gitmo caused by the swap of 5 Taliban prisoners for American POW Bowe Bergdahl, the rank hypocrisy and opportunism of politicians who supported a swap for Berghdal until Obama executed it, and their micro-management of the prison while ignoring Obama’s recent change to the Afghan exit plan and his assertion of authority to order people killed by drone strikes. We discuss the newly-exposed rift over Guantanamo releases between the White House and Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel, and he pointedly notes that Obama has failed to use the discretion available to him despite restrictions imposed by Congress. Worthington adds import background information on the 5 Taliban leaders–particularly that there is no evidence that any of them were involved in attacks on Americans.
At the 43-minute mark, we talk with Eisenberg about the hunger strikers at Guantanamo–now renamed in Orwellian fashion as “non-religious fasters”–and the legal issues raised by brutal force-feeding. He is on the legal team of Syrian prisoner Abu Dhiab, who has been held for 12 years without charge or trial, and was cleared for release in 2009. As Worthington reports, Dhiab is one of the 6 inmates offered a home in Uruguay, but Eisenberg is not permitted to confirm that under the Kafka rules of the Gitmo bar. Eisenberg details the grisly process of forced extraction from prison cells and the repeated insertion of nasal tubes, a very painful process; he also describes gratuitous infliction of pain reported by his clients.
In May, federal judge Gladys Kessler issued a restraining order halting Dhiab’s cell extraction and forced feeding, but dissolved it a week later over fears that he would die. From her rulings, it is clear that Kessler is quite anguished by the case, and ired by the Pentagon’s refusal to use more humane methods.
Eisenberg had not heard the Worthington interview when we spoke, so it is interesting that he, too, singled out President Obama for failing to use his authority to order an end to the inhumane treatment of the hunger strikers.